Power of Framing

Photo Real Simple

No, this isn’t a post on picture frames. This is a post on the way we frame, view or understand the world. Frames are powerful. Once we are in a frame it is almost impossible to see our way out.

However, sometimes something happens that will snap us right out of our frame. Language can help us reframe. Read this post by DH to learn how the language we use determines how we understand or frame crucial issues.

An accident, a trauma, a comment or even a story can quickly pull us out of our frame.

Jesus told stories, called parables, to shock people out of their frames. Jesus was adept at the Judaic tradition of parables. An example of this is the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37).

Jesus tells this story in response to the question, “Who is my neighbor?” In this story, both the priest and the Levite – upstanding people in this social “frame” –  refused to help the traveler who had been robbed and left on the roadside. Yet, the Samaritan not only helps but takes the traveler to an inn and pays for his care until his return. This is a shocking story because Samaritans were considered unclean and undesirable people. In our day perhaps the Samaritan might be a homeless person. In the shock of the story, Jesus re-frames the question. Ask not, “Who is my neighbor?” Rather, ask “What must I do to be neighborly?”

All of Jesus’ parables were meant to shock us in this manner, to jolt us out of our distorted view of reality. Jesus used the word metanoia, a Greek word meaning change your mind, change your view of reality. It was directly translated as “repent” but the modern meaning of this word misses what Jesus was communicating. It wasn’t about stopping a particular action or behavior. It was about changing one’s entire orientation to life.

We have other examples of reframing. Aesop’s Fables served a similar purpose.

In ancient Greece, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is probably the most famous frame-breaker. In this story people, chained to a wall, labor deep in a cave. Their world is very small. All they can see are shadows on the wall before them. They can’t even turn around to see the fire behind them that causes the shadows.

One day, one of them escapes. In leaving the cave she sees the fire that casts dim light into the cave and creates the shadows. Climbing further out of the cave she sees more light reflected from a pool of water. Moving higher still, she finally sees daylight far above at the mouth of the cave.

She returns to tell the others. But they don’t believe her. They won’t even try to turn around and see the fire, much less move towards the light reflected in the pool.

In the end, she must climb upward into the daylight and leave the cave behind.

The cave is a metaphor for being trapped in cultural or family systems, or perhaps being trapped in a life story that is limiting or a narrow worldview. It results in a lack of real freedom to choose better possibilities.

Life is full of possibilities. Full of light. Do we want to live in the shadows? Or in the light? Re-frame.

Photo Real Simple

You may also like Truth or Consequences, Myth of Objective Reporting, What is White Privilege? and White Privilege.

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